Augusta Harris profiles the outgoing CCSC prez. Look for this and more in the April issue of The Blue & White, on campus this week.
Aki Terasaki, CC ’12, CCSC president and two-time class president, might be one of Columbia’s biggest fans, as evidenced by his high school graduation gift: a cat he named Roar-ee.
His devotion to community is clear. Most of Terasaki’s work as CCSC president is grounded in absolving the communicative disconnect separating administrative bureaucracy from the student body. One of his weekly emails even included his personal phone number; another announced his resignation from the presidency as an April’s Fool’s joke. It’s important to him that student government has a face, and Aki works hard to ensure it’s a friendly one.
“He’s got a fantastic personality and a bubbling laugh that pours over into every ounce of his personality. First off, he’s charismatic. He has the right attitude and gives personal attention to his work that makes him an effective campus leader. I voted for him every year and I don’t even like voting for things!” Pat Blute, CC ’12, joked, “I’m truly proud to call Aki a colleague, classmate, friend, and future husband.”
Karishma Habbu, CC ’13, will readily list her favorite of Aki’s attributes. “His perfectly coiffed hair, his intensity during our 9 am Body Sculpting Class, his ability to pull off huge events like Glass House Rocks and class formal on a BOAT… Aki is fun and style in one.”
Aki’s warm and enthusiastic attitude is likely what caused the shift in the tenor of CCSC meetings, he transformed the cut-and-dry systemic rituals into dynamic, open dialogues among members. He even went as far as to instate non-mandatory meetings. Terasaki took a risk, believing that obligation was dampening enthusiasm among Council members.
Though the meetings quickly swung back to required attendance, Terasaki’s initiative to remodel meetings based on town hall-style transparency became the new standard in communication between the governing and student bodies. At the beginning of the spring semester, he held a “complain session” for students to air their grievances to the Council.
While student advocacy is his priority, Terasaki’s aim for CCSC extends beyond CCSC <3’s You cards for Valentine’s Day. Though dedicated to his twin pursuits of administrative discourse and advocacy for students, he is often forced to choose just one. “Sometimes you have to go against the grain in the case of the administrators,” he says. “It’s important to fight for students.”
And he has. Terasaki was a major contributor to the new CCSC website, yourCCSC.com, which maintains a healthy average of 300 unique visitors a day, with a record high of 1200.
“He wants students to be in touch with their council leaders and University administrators,” said current CCSC VP Communications Virat Gupta.
Terasaki was born in Tokyo, though he could claim Hawaii, Ohio, Maryland, or, most recently, Delaware as his home state. But it’s not until now that he’s put roots down. “I know it’s cheesy to say, but I found my hometown in New York. I get the chills every time I come back to the city.”
After graduation, following in the tradition of former CCSC presidents, Terasaki will apply his mediatory skills to a stint in management consulting. As for the legacy he hopes to leave, Terasaki is gracious, and humbly credits Columbia for his successes: “Columbia has done so much for me,” he says. “I just want to give back to my community.”